Two emerging key forwards are now in first-round draft calculations, including a Jeremy Cameron-like left-footer.
Plus young stars with familiar names shine and the similarities between SA’s captain and Jack Graham.
Foxfooty.com.au analyses the big AFL draft talking points following the latest round of the Under 18 national championships.
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CAMERON-LIKE CADMAN RISING UP DRAFT BOARDS
In draft class renowned for its array of versatile, hybrid prospects, two emerging key forwards have put themselves in first-round draft calculations.
GWV Rebels 194cm goalkicker Aaron Cadman continued his excellent national championships campaign on Sunday, booting 3.3 from 19 disposals and eight marks (two contested) in Vic Country’s 43-point win over Western Australia at GMHBA Stadium.
AFL National Talent Ambassador Kevin Sheehan told Fox Footy Cadman was “a lot like Jeremy Cameron” – and the fact he was able to win so much of the ball up the field, as well as be a constant scoreboard threat, justified the talent guru’s call.
“He’s a mobile left-footer and has that laconic look about him, but he’s quick on the lead, strong overhead and is a thumping kick for goal on that preferred left boot,” Sheehan told Fox Footy.
“If he can end up half as good as Jeremy Cameron, he’ll be a fair player … He’s on the right pathway with what he’s been able to show this year. He’s a very dangerous player.”
AFL draft expert Mick Ablett added: “He’s just a big body to get around when he positions himself like that and sticks his backside back into the defender to create separation.”
Athletic 195cm Oakleigh Chargers forward Matt Jefferson was also prominent on Sunday, booting three goals for Vic Metro against South Australia to take his carnival tally to 12 from three games.
Cadman and Jefferson have overtaken South Australia’s Harry Lemmey as the best key-position forward prospects in the draft class, with Lemmey struggling to boost his chances at national level after entering the year as a possible Pick 1 contender.
Lemmey, whose 2022 campaign has been interrupted due to entering health and safety protocols a couple of times, entered Sunday’s match against Vic Metro with confidence after booting six goals for West Adelaide in his most recent SANFL Under 18s match.
But the 18-year-old couldn’t impose himself at GMHBA Stadium, finishing scoreless from three disposals and two marks. The SA coaching staff threw Lemmey into the ruck then, in the last quarter, down back to try and get him into the game.
HOTTON TO TROTTIN’
Carlton fans will be kicking themselves Trent Hotton only managed 61 games for the club, because his son has rocketed into early-round draft calculations over the past few weeks.
Oli Hotton, the son of Trent Hotton who was a key member of the strong Blues side of the early 2000s, produced another brilliant display for Vic Metro, booting 3.2 from 24 disposals, 10 contested possessions, six inside 50s and five marks. Most importantly, eight of his 24 touches turned into Vic Metro scores, while he went at 77 per cent by foot in miserable Geelong conditions.
It comes after Hotton, who’s been compared to Essendon young gun Archie Perkins, booted three goals and averaged 17 touches across his previous two Vic Metro games.
Hotton’s school footy coach Matthew Lloyd recently described Hotton as “one of the cleanest and best stoppage players I’ve seen at school level” – and that cleanliness was on display against SA.
“I love some of his physical attributes,” Sheehan. “He’s got speed and that extra yard of pace that you want to break away from an opponent, plus he’s got that spring and overhead marking ability when one-on-one that he can jump up and mark against an opponent. He’s got natural goal instincts too.
“Matthew Lloyd obviously believes in this young fella and I can see why. He’s been a dynamic small forward for Vic Metro, very dangerous with his bag of tricks.
“There’s nothing going to stop him from playing the game at the higher level.”
Hotton was one of five multiple goalkickers for Vic Metro, with Oakleigh Chargers prospect Blake Drury also causing headaches inside 50 for SA’s defence.
After showing off his ball-winning ability and run and carry in his previous two carnival games, Drury thrived close to goal against SA, booting 2.1. Of his 21 disposals, 12 ended up in Vic Metro scores – a team-high number.
“Many recruiters see him as a Jack Higgins clone because he’s so clever around goal,” AFL Media reporter Cal Twomey said during Fox Footy’s coverage of the game.
“He probably has to start his AFL career as a half-forward or small forward, but I’m sure he’ll have ambitions to move into the midfield down the track.”
Sheehan added: “He’s probably even got the potential to play as a small defender. He’s such a tough little nut that he can play in almost any spot.
“He’s also blessed with great speed and endurance – such an important combination to have if you want to go and play at AFL level.”
Other Vic Metro players to impress were Northern Knights Darcy Edmends, who had 21 disposals, seven marks and six score involvements as he showed off terrific composure in traffic and his effortless ability to swing onto either boot. Eastern Ranges defender Lewis Hayes – the brother of Port Adelaide ruck Sam Hayes – stood tall down back with 18 disposals and six marks, while first-round bolter Cam Mackenzie worked hard all day for his 23 touches.
Alwyn Davey Jr (0.1 from 10 disposals, 6 score involvements) and Harry Sheezel (0.1 from 15 disposals) were a little quieter compared to previous games, but still showed glimpses.
But Pick 1 favourite Will Ashcroft was far from quiet, booting one goal from 38 disposals, 12 contested possessions, 10 clearances, 10 inside 50s, 10 score involvements and five tackles.
“His character is so impressive,” Mick Ablett said. “It doesn’t matter what level of footy he plays, he continues to produce and put his best foot forward, which says a lot about a person.
“When you look at him play, he runs AFL patterns – and I’m sure that’s got a bit to do with the education his dad has provided. He looks a really mature head and what you see here, you can envisage him doing at AFL level.”
More on Ashcroft here.
SOUTH AUSTRALIA’S ‘CONSUMMATE PROFESSIONAL’
There’s a lot of similarities between Adam D’Aloia – one of South Australia’s best players this year – and Jack Graham – one of South Australia’s best players in 2016 that has gone on to win three flags at Richmond.
Graham won the Larke Medal for the best player at the Under 18 national championships in 2016, racking up disposals at will as an inside midfielder and leading his state superbly as skipper. Yet there was a sense recruiters were focusing more on what Graham couldn’t do, rather than what he could. Ultimately, he slipped to Richmond at Pick 53 in the national draft later that year – and now the Tigers are laughing.
Like Graham, inside midfielder D’Aloia six years later is his state’s captain and No. 1 ball-winner. On Sunday against Vic Metro, he booted 1.1 from 27 disposals, a game-high 17 contested possessions and 11 clearances.
On numbers alone, D’Aloia should be in first-round calculations. But will recruiters focus on his flaws rather than his strengths come the draft?
If Sheehan had his way, D’Aloia would be among the top 2022 prospects.
“He’s the consummate professional,” Sheehan told Fox Footy.
“His form at Under 17 and Under 19 state level last year was fantastic too. Every time he steps out for SA, he’s won plenty of the footy.
“He’s a captain, a leader and he’s just a footballer. He’s not necessarily quick, but he’s in the right spots at the right time.”
It seems his Woodville-West Torrens teammate Mattaes Phillipou is rated more highly than D’Aloia at this stage as he’s slightly taller and has a few more tricks.
Phillipou showed glimpses of his best against Vic Metro on Sunday, including a terrific running goal in the wet late in the second term. But he was hampered by back soreness, which limited him to 14 disposals and two clearances.
North Adelaide’s Billy Dowling had a team-high 28 disposals and six inside 50s, while Jakob Ryan and Kobe Ryan had 22 touches each. Glenelg’s Jake Walker also gave SA a hard-edge dynamic at stoppages, finishing with 21 disposals and five clearances – all of which came from centre bounce stoppages.
ANOTHER HOLLANDS IN THE TOP 10?
The Gold Coast Suns pounced on Elijah Hollands with Pick 7 in the 2020 national draft.
And if Oliver Hollands continues to pull out performances like he did for Vic Country on Sunday for the rest of 2022, the younger brother could be another first-round – maybe even top-10 – selection.
The Murray Bushrangers product – regarded as one of the best two-way runners in the draft class – starred produced one of his best games of 2022 yet against WA, racking up 33 disposals, 11 contested possessions and six score involvements.
“How good has Oliver Hollands been today?” Ablett told Fox Footy. “His ability to win contested possession and his class by hand and foot has been outstanding.
“I love his composure … When you watch him in close in traffic, he doesn’t panic. He sees the gaps, he makes each possession count.”
Hollands received great on-ball support from usual Vic Country suspects Mitch Szybkowski (25 disposals), Jaxon Binns (24) and Jhye Clark (24).
“He’s a class act,” Ablett said of Clark. “I love his ability on both sides of his body, whether it’s by foot or by hand.
“He’s tough and can get it on the inside, but he’s got a really nice balance of winning some ball on the outside as well.
“You’d like to see him with a bit more polish heading forward and hitting targets inside 50, but that’ll come. He’s doing a hell of a lot right, he’s got a great workrate, very good leadership ability and I think he’ll feature heavily come November.”
Bendigo’s Noah Long and Gippsland’s Coby Burgiel did the damage on the scoreboard, booting three goals each along with Cadman.
WA was hit hard by injury and Covid protocols leading into the game, meaning the team was severely undermanned against Vic Country.
Ample eyes were on gun midfield prospect Elijah Hewett to see how he’d respond after last week’s quiet 10-disposal outing against the Allies. He started with terrific intensity and racked up 13 touches in the first half alone, but only finished with 18 for the match. But the fact he laid eight tackles and had 11 contested possessions and five clearances would’ve pleased recruiters.
WA’s standout player, again, was Reuben Ginbey, whose move from defence into the midfield continues to pay dividends.
The 189cm East Perth product thrived in the wet conditions, finishing with a team-high 22 disposals, 11 contested possessions and late goal.
“He’s powerfully built, he’s got that acceleration away from stoppage and I like the way he attacks the ball,” Sheehan said.
“He’s the AFL prototype with his size, strength and power. He’s got to clean up his kicking a little bit, but his ball-winning ability in the contest is fantastic.
“His true grit has been terrific in tough conditions, so he’s lifted his ranking. He’s one we’d heard about before the championships started – and now we can see what the scouts were talking about.”
Corey Trengenza-Cashell took a couple of strong contested marks and booted two goals, while Tyrell Dewar and Jasper Scaife provided highlights with their respective goals.
CLASS OF 2023
While most of the attention on Sunday was on this year’s prospects, it’s hard not to get excited about the class of 2023, with several bottom-agers starring on the national stage.
All three Vic Metro bottom-agers were crucial in the win over SA. Eastern Ranges’ Nick Watson and Northern Knights’ Nate Caddy – the nephew of dual premiership Tiger Josh Caddy – booted three goals each, while Oakleigh Chargers’ Jason Philactides had another excellent game with 19 disposals across half-back/wing.
For South Australia, West Adelaide’s Will Patton and Sturt’s Alex Holt both had 15 disposals and gave terrific drive out of defence, while Glenelg’s Ashton Moir showed glimpses of his exciting potential playing close to goal.
WA’s 17-year-olds turned heads, too. Koen Sanchez, in his first Under 18’s carnival game since recovering from a groin injury, showed great class to boot one goal from 17 disposals, while Mitch Edwards was excellent as the solo ruck and Koltyn Tholstrup had 14 disposals and seven tackles as he played a crucial role in his state’s third-quarter surge.
And Vic Country’s Harley Reid showed why he’s regarded as a Pick 1 contender for next year’s draft.
After playing as a midfielder/forward in the NAB League for Bendigo Pioneers, Reid has starred as a defender for Vic Country.
On Sunday he had 19 disposals and five marks and went at 100 per cent efficiency by foot.
“He just reads the play so well,” Sheehan said.
“His intercept marking is pretty special and he’s used the ball well in tough conditions.”